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Tuesday, April 20, 1999 Published at 01:24 GMT 02:24 UK

World: Africa

Kabila hails Congo peace deal

Critical questions remain

A significant step has been taken towards ending the nine-month civil war in Congo, President Laurent Kabila has said.

He said he was confident that the latest ceasefire accord would hold because it had the support of Uganda, one of the chief backers of the Congolese rebels.

Rebel leader Wamba dia Wamba told the BBC that although he had not yet seen the contents of the agreement, he believed his allies at the talks would not have acted against rebel interests.

[ image: President Laurent Kabila: Postponed giving details]
President Laurent Kabila: Postponed giving details
The rebels have previously rejected any deals without their direct participation and correspondents say they are unsure about the effectiveness of the pact, which was signed in Sirte, Libya, on Sunday.

Rwanda, the principle backer of the rebels, was unrepresented in the agreement and has played down the significance of the deal.

Mr Kabila has said that in the coming days heads-of-state talks will try to involve the Rwandan Government and the rebels.

A government minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo added that talks with rebel leaders would be held in Rome at the end of this month.

The Information Minister, Didier Mumengi, said two rebel leaders had agreed to take part.


However, both rebel leaders told the BBC that certain conditions had to be met before the talks.

Wamba dia Wamba criticised the composition of the government delegation saying it consisted of what he called dinosaurs-in-exile, trying to secure their return to Kinshasa.

The other, Jean-Pierre Bemba, said political prisoners had to be released and political parties allowed to operate freely.

Observer troops

The Sirte agreement calls for:

  • a ceasefire
  • the installation of African peace keeping forces in areas of conflict
  • the withdrawal of foreign troops - notably Ugandan
  • non-interference in internal affairs of Congo
  • it also encourages the Kabila government to start a dialogue with all sides.

    Mr Kabila said on Monday that Libya and Eritrea had agreed to send observer troops to replace Ugandan forces he accuses of invading parts of Congo.

    He said further summits were planned to bring other heads of state into a definitive peace deal in the conflict, which has sucked in some half a dozen African armies.

    However, he postponed publicly announcing the anxiously-awaited details of the accord.

    The war, which has pitted the Kabila government against Tutsi-led rebels backed by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, has wreaked havoc on the population and the fragile economies in the region.

    The rebels currently hold the eastern third of the country.

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